Monday, September 4, 2017

Cross County Trail Report: Some TLC Needed

1. Bridge

The Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail (CCT) needs some love. FABB members Eric Lengel and Kelley Westenhoff recently rode one part of the trail, taking photos and notes to alert County officials and help get the trail the attention it needs.

They entered the CCT where it crosses Rt. 50 @ Pickett Road, near Thaiss Park. Within the first .10 of a mile heading east, they encountered this bridge (Photos 1 and 5).

2. Root Damage

Further along the trail, continuing east, there were numerous places where tree roots have made the trail dangerous for all users (Photo 2). 

In the next .10 mile, the path goes from gravel to paved to this kind of mixture (Photo 3). These sharp edges are dangerous for bike tires and people who are mobility-impaired. 

3. Mixed Path

The ride also revealed that the CCT needs better marking. The CCT markers don’t really inform except with an occasional arrow. Trail markers should be used to provide important locator information including some kind of identifier that would assist law enforcement personnel responding to calls.

There were also dangerous posts at the trail entrances (Photo 4). They are perfectly positioned to stop car traffic from entering, but they are also dark without any reflective qualities. In low light conditions, they are extremely dangerous to trail users.

4. Entrance Post

The sad thing is that this was one of the “better” parts of the CCT. Granted, the CCT is not supposed to be a sweetly paved trail in its entirety. It is NOT and was never intended to be the W&OD. But it is an important commuter route in some places (notably where Eric and Kelley were evaluating). If the trail is going to be natural surface in one section, it should be consistently natural surface, not crumbling asphalt. We are aware of and appreciate the work that went into getting a dry and stable path through this stream valley park, but more effort to maintain this good work is needed. 

The CCT can be better. 

One of the CCT’s challenges is that, because it goes through many jurisdictions and supervisor districts, there is no one entity to give it proper attention. This is not an insurmountable problem. The W&OD goes through different counties and towns and still manages to be a cohesive park. [Note: Maps for the Cross County Trail can be found here.]

The CCT, however, is entirely within the Fairfax County Park Authority’s purview. A good first step toward addressing some of these problems might be to form a “Friends of the CCT” group to provide continuity and a plan for maintenance and care. In its present state, however, there are many places where biking on the road is preferable to the trail.

5. Bridge

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I have noticed VDOT/FCDOT can be very responsive to pothole reports on the roads. Is the condition of the CCT just a matter of ignorance? If we report the problems, will they come? It is hard to appreciate its poor condition until you've dodged the potholes, puddles, and eroded sections while at the same time negotiating traffic on a busy Saturday.
When was that section of the CCT was last paved? It would be an important to know how long it took the trail to reach its current state. Is it the intention of the FCPS that it remain paved?
Your post has a lot of good ideas: friends of CCT, signage, better maintenance, consistent trail surface. These would address many of my complaints about the CCT.

- Karl Liebert


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